Reel Lines - Summer Issue 2017

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In This Issue:

From Zero to Fish: How to get your community reeling in the big ones!

Picture of T. Chapman, author of article

By Tiara Chapman, Recreation Assistant for Fort Worth Parks and Recreation Dept.

About four months ago on a balmy March morning, I took a stroll along Chisholm Trail Park, a neighborhood pocket prairie in southwestern Fort Worth. The paved level path is ideal for a leisurely stroll so I took full advantage of its tranquility. The breeze carried with it the scent of bee balm and bluebonnets. The songs of eastern meadowlarks, mockingbirds, and cardinals swirled all around me. A flash of slate and the unique honk of the Giant Blue Heron directed my eye to a small pond on the west end of the park that featured a fishing pier encircled by mature oak trees.  “I wondered if it’s stocked….”

That thought nagged at the back of my mind well into my work day at Chisholm Trail Community Center, the newest edition to the City of Fort Worth’s Parks and Recreation Department. At 20,000 square feet, Chisholm Trail boasts two multipurpose rooms, a rock wall, an aerobics room, a state of the art fitness center, a full-size basketball gym, and a wide assortment of community programs. I asked Sharetta Goodwin, the Center’s Supervisor, whether or not the pond was stocked. “No, I don’t think so but we do have fishing poles if you’d like to find out what’s there!”

As it turns out the pond isn’t officially stocked but plenty of sunfish thrive there nonetheless. The pond is beautifully accessible and provides a wonderful opportunity to teach about riparian ecosystems. Creating a program at the pond was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up! A fishing program hadn’t been offered in a while and with Free Fishing Day in Texas about a month away, it felt perfect!

After a careful assessment of the Center’s supplies and our own nascent fishing skills, we knew we were going to need help. I knew that Texas Parks and Wildlife actively recruits and trains Angler Educators but I wasn’t sure where to start. Enter Keira Quam, the Aquatic Education Specialist based in the DFW area. With the first email, I knew that we were in good hands. Ms. Quam was excited to help and invited us to an Angler Education workshop at TWU in Denton where we would learn the basics and have not only the skills but the confidence to teach others the wonderful sport that is fishing. There are few joys in life that are as amazing as finally tying a knot correctly! The workshop taught us terminology, proper gear, teaching techniques, and most importantly patience. “It’s called fishing, not catching!”

With our certifications in hand, we studied the Take Me Fishing guide and built the fishing program for our center. Attending the workshop also provided access to the Group Tackle Loaner Program as well as the Angler Education Instructor kit, so we were equipped with the knowledge and the proper tools to facilitate a First Fish program. Unfortunately, a severe summer storm rolled through and we had to cancel the event but the rain didn’t dampen our desire to provide programming at the pond. Since then we have been exploring ways to fund the cost of stocking the pond and developing a permanent gear cache so that we can provide fishing programs throughout the year. Thank you so much to the very patient Area Chief instructors, Jim Bass, Al Hillman, Aaron Kint and TPWD staff Keira Quam, for teaching us about the valuable natural resources of Texas and how to share ways to enjoy them with others!

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Angler Education - It's About More Than Fish!

picture of E.Rodewald, author of article

By Elyce Rodewald, Education Coordinator, Stephen F Austin State Univ. Gardens

The Conservation Education Program at Stephen F. Austin State University Gardens encompasses many topics—earth science, natural history, native ecosystems, pollination, endangered species, vegetable gardening  and forest health to name a few. About ten years ago, fishing and angler education eased into our summer camp curriculum with encouragement from a wonderful volunteer who just happened to be an avid angler.

I have to admit I was hesitant—hooks on long strings—children really close to water—fish with spikey fins.  It sounded a bit scary.  She made sound suggestions for safety protocol and contributed ideas and techniques for teaching children the basics of successful fishing.  I soon realized that fishing was not just about the fish.  It was about sharing a passion for being outdoors and caring for a special place.  It was about patience and dexterity and spending time with your friends.  It was about unplugging from the television and play station and having the opportunity to see nature up close and personal.  It was about relaxing, being quiet and persevering.  It was about rejoicing for your successes and coping with disappointment.  And of course, it was always about the fish stories!

With help from a Texas Parks and Wildlife COOP grant, we were able to purchase fishing gear and expand angler education to include our weekend family programs and our after-school program. 

Recently, several SFA forestry majors who participate in the student chapter of National Association of Interpreters completed the TPWD Angler Education Instructor certification course and immediately put their new knowledge to work by bringing the Basic Angler Certification program to Kid Fish, a large family fishing event hosted by the City of Nacogdoches.  The SFA students used the angler education curriculum to create six hands-on, experiential learning stations.  Participants who completed all six stations received a Basic Angler Certificate.

SFA students gained valuable experience in developing and teaching the activities.  The children at Kid Fish benefitted from the effective interactive stations.  I realized once again that fishing isn’t just about the fish.  It is about excitement, learning, sharing, building community, and of course, about those fish stories!

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Reeling ‘em in

6 university students sitting at tables learning to tie flies.

By Karen Marks, TPWD Aquatic Education Manager

On a national level, over the past several years, fishing license sales have remained steady or gradually declined. To counteract this trend, many fish and wildlife agencies are focused on a new effort called R3 – Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. Fishing license sales are important to TPWD as an agency, because 100% of the fees help fund our programs to conserve and improve fish habitats and fish stocking, to help make Texas one of the best places in the country to fish.

The good news is that the Outdoor Industry Association (a national organization dedicated to increasing outdoor participation) recently published a report, 2017 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report, that states fishing participation rates for youth and adults ranked in the top five outdoor activities. However, for the “Aspirational Participation” group (non-participants), fishing did not appear in the top ten list for the age group of 18-24. This report highlights the need to continue our angler education efforts, especially for this young adult age group.

Recruitment efforts focus on ways to reach people to create an awareness and interest in fishing as a hobby, and to try it out. Retention efforts focus on ways to encourage anglers to decide to continue fishing. Reactivation efforts focus on ways to get those anglers with lapsed interest or fishing licenses back into the sport.

As a Volunteer Angler Education Instructor you can help “Support the Sport” with these simple recruitment, retention and reactivation ideas:

Reach out to your local community college or university:

This age group (18-24) is in a self-discovery life stage. Out on their own for the first time it’s a great time to introduce them to lifelong recreation hobbies, before they get busy with a career or family.

  • Offer a basic fishing or fly fishing class. If an on the water class is not possible, consider offering a two-part class – first class can be held inside covering the basic skills and the second class at a nearby lake in the community or at a nearby state park. 
  • Host a fishing info booth at a campus event or sports event. Be sure to include some kind of hands-on activity such as a guess that fish name game or knot-tying instruction. Hand out info about places to go fishing and if available, clubs in their area. Collect contact info for future classes or clinics.

K-12 schools and youth organizations:

Remember that when teaching this age group it is crucial to somehow include the parents and family. If the child gets excited about fishing, but their parent isn’t interested, they probably won’t get the opportunity to go fishing again.

  • Include "Where to Fish" info for their families:

Neighborhood Fishing Parks are stocked every two weeks throughout most of the year – ensuring a high catch rate.

Give each student a free TPWD State Park guide to take home. Fishing licenses are not required to fish in state parks, and with a quick check online, they can find parks with fishing events and free tackle loaner programs.

  • If possible, offer a family fishing day at a nearby park after the class or once or twice a semester. It could be held in the early evening or on a weekend.
  • Host an info booth about fishing at a “Back to School,” PTA meeting, book fair, band or sports event. A fun advertising flyer might be titled: Why are fish so cool? Because they stay in "schools!”
  • Start an after school fishing club.    

Novice or lapsed anglers:

This group is the one we want to “retain” or “reactivate” in the sport of fishing. With the help of our volunteer instructors, we can keep them interested in fishing in the following ways:

  • Reach out to your local Veterans organization or Assisted Living facilities to teach a basic fishing class.
  • Offer specialty clinics such as night fishing or how to fish for certain fish species (largemouth bass, white bass, catfish, crappie, flounder, red fish, etc…).
  • Offer a “Cook your Catch” class. These are popular at places like Central Market in the major metro areas. You can offer a class and host it at a local park demonstrating outdoor cooking, or at your church if it has a kitchen. Another option might be to contact your local food bank to see if they have a kitchen and would be interested in co-hosting a class. Remember the old saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
  • Host fly fishing, fly-tying demos or classes. Many of the fly fishing clubs do this at local restaurants or retail stores.
  • Established fishing clubs could offer a ride-share service to their monthly meetings or a buddy program. People are more likely to go to a meeting if they are personally invited by a club member or friend, or know someone else is depending on them to give them a ride to the meeting.

If you have other ideas please let us know! As always, don’t forget to order supplies and reserve equipment if available in your area. Remember, we are happy to advertise classes, clinics or events for our volunteer instructors on the TPWD Calendar of Events; and help recruit volunteers for our certified instructors. These posted events are also shared with the Texas Children in Nature website for free or low cost family friendly activities.

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Support the Sport ~ Learn. Fish. Teach. AND Report…

Administrative Assistant A. Wertz with file folders

Our fish and aquatic habitats depend on you. Whether you just learned to fish, or have been fishing for a while, when you buy a license or gear, or teach fishing – you Support the Sport.

We greatly appreciate all those who teach fishing and submit volunteer reports! These reports help sustain our Angler Education Program. For every volunteer hour, our program receives a $24 per hour match from the Sportfish Restoration Act grant that funds our program. We use these funds to purchase supplies, certificates, pins and equipment for you to use free of charge in your classes and events.

You still have time to volunteer and report your hours for this fiscal year! The last day to report for this fiscal year is August 31st.  We appreciate EVERY volunteer regardless of how much time they volunteer – everyone counts! However, if you volunteer 100 or more hours with our program (Sept – Aug), look for a NEW 100 hours lapel pin and a TPWD Volunteer cap in the mail later this year.

Currently 60% of our volunteers report online – YAY! Our goal is to reach 100%! Can you help us reach our goal?  

When you self-report your hours online, you not only save a tree, you can also help reduce the paper on our administrative assistant’s desk! Help Audra – report online!

Online reports are easy and fast for staff to process, and also eliminate common problems such as illegible handwriting or missing signatures that prevent us from crediting the volunteer with their hours.

Regardless of the report type (online or paper) all hours must be listed by the date (Month/Day/Year) – no lump sum hours for a date span can be accepted.

For more information on how to report online, watch this short video (scroll down the page).

What’s new?

We have enlisted TPWD’s resident artist to redesign our basic and intermediate fly fishing participant pins before he heads out the door for retirement. We hope to have the pins ready for production in the fall.

As soon as the statewide hiring freeze is lifted, we plan to re-hire a new Central Texas Training Specialist to fill the vacancy.

Other program changes include the respectful retirement of the Go Fish! Learn to Fish in State Parks contract program. Although we are discontinuing the funding for the contracts, the program model – learning stations followed by on-the-water fishing – will be continued. We will also continue to use the logo on future program materials.

Sadly, Zebra Mussels are making their way south – TPWD biologists in early June have positively identified them in Canyon Lake in the Guadalupe River basin and in Lake Travis in the Colorado River basin. Help us spread the message not the species: Clean. Drain. Dry. This not only applies to boats, but also reels, minnow buckets, wading gear etc. The invasive species (Zebra Mussels and Giant Salvinia) campaign has a new look. The TPWD marketing team worked with an ad agency who created regional specific artwork for various Texas lakes for the campaign – look for these at marinas, gasoline pumps and billboards, and see if you recognize your lake!

As an Angler Education Instructor you can help spread the message…share this video; or order free info sheets or foam core rulers with the Clean. Drain. Dry. message to hand out at your events – just write in the item on the bottom of the supply order form.  

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New Instructors and Accomplishments

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Welcome New Instructors and congratulations to our Area Chiefs who earned their Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum awards!

Group photo of 20 volunteer instructors who became Area Chiefs


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Learn to Fish Videos | Texas Aquatic Science | TPWD Fishing Information

Volunteer Portal | In Memoriam | Staff Contacts


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